Question — I'm 16 1/2 years old and get my license in less than six months, so my parents and I are looking for a good car for me. I am in love with the Jeep Wrangler. My best friend has one, and I have grown to love it. It seems safe to me, but my parents think that it wouldn't be a good car for me because they say it rolls over too easily. I think they are wrong but thought I would ask you guys for your opinion. — Courtney

TOM: Well, you're going to think WE'RE wrong, too, Courtney, because we agree with your parents 100 percent.

RAY: In our opinion, the Wrangler has only one thing going for it. It's cute.

TOM: Like me!

RAY: And it has no body hair. But other than cuteness, what's it got going for it? It rides like a Conestoga wagon. It's got no interior room. It uses plastic flaps for windows on some models and flimsy slabs of sheet metal for doors. It gets lousy gas mileage, and it doesn't have a real good reliability record.

TOM: And even if we were willing to overlook all of those things, there's one thing we can't overlook. It's got a short wheelbase and a high center of gravity, which does make it easier to tip over than other vehicles on the road. And when a kid has no or little experience driving a car, she shouldn't be driving a car that can roll over on top of her if she swerves too fast, drives up an embankment by accident or gets hit the wrong way by the wrong vehicle.

RAY: We sometimes get calls or letters from people who want to buy Wranglers, and we tell them to go right ahead. It IS a fun car to drive — in a barbaric sort of way. Every time we test one, I enjoy it. And if you're willing to accept its drawbacks, it's a free country, and you can drive whatever you like. Have fun.

TOM: But it's not a good car for a kid, Courtney. Kids — even the few kids who AREN'T suffering from hormonal-induced insanity — make mistakes when they're new drivers. That's why teenagers should have solid, safe cars with low centers of gravity.

RAY: I know you want to beat us over the head right now with a parking meter for ruining your life, Courtney. We can take it. But you'll have to get in line behind our own kids. Sorry, Court.

Question — I work for a rental car company in Mons, Belgium, and most of my customers are Americans. Here's my question: Why do so many Americans feel obliged to clear all the garbage out of their homes and dump it into their rental cars before they return them to us? In some cases, we could change the engine in less time than it takes to clean the interior of the car. Another thing, the ashtray is always clean, but the carpet is covered in ash and candy wrappers. What do Americans think the ashtray is for?

Finally, is it an American custom to hide empty cans and take-away food boxes under the seats? Maybe if I understood "the American way" it would make it more acceptable for me. Any comment? — David

TOM: Yes, David. I could see how, from a foreign perspective, this looks like sloppy and even inconsiderate behavior. But it is actually yet another example of good old American ingenuity.

RAY: It's part of America's job-creation program abroad. You might have noticed that the United States always has among the lowest rates of unemployment in the civilized world. And why, you might ask? Because we Americans know how to make work.

TOM: The Americans who rent your cars are just worried about the poor Belgians who live in your country. What if they have no work to do?

RAY: So, when driving a rental car, the thoughtful American is likely to take the extra time to place an empty pizza box securely under the passenger seat. He knows that your company will have to assign, and pay, somebody to clean out the car and retrieve the garbage. And if lots of people place pizza boxes under seats, the company will eventually have to hire a person whose sole job it is to fish out empty pizza boxes.

TOM: But the American, being even more thoughtful, does not stop there. To ensure work for more of your Belgian countrymen, he has his wife throw a half-empty yogurt container on the floor in the back, providing work for a carpet cleaner. Then he has his kids eat some candy bars and wipe their hands on the seats. Voila! A Belgian upholstery cleaner can also put dinner on the table.

RAY: And, of course, you can see how the thoughtful American — looking at it this way — sees the use of the ashtray as taking food out of some poor laborer's mouth. So the thoughtful American intentionally closes the ashtray and takes the time and trouble to scatter his ashes over various parts of the car.

TOM: As you say, you can often replace an engine in less time than it takes to clean out a car driven by an American. So we have succeeded masterfully!

RAY: And now that you understand the true nature of this international humanitarian effort, David, I'm sure you would want me to extend my sincere gratitude to the American people on your behalf. Consider it done, David!


The Magliozzi brothers' radio show, "Car Talk," can be heard Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at noon on KUER FM 90.1, and on KCPW 88.3/105.1 FM Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. If you have a question about cars, write to Click and Clack Talk Cars c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 East 45th St., New York, NY 10017. You can e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk section of the Web site www.cars.com